A great day at work Monday in Latrobe, Pa., as the Pittsburgh Steelers put on the pads for the first time. Full-contact, lively hitting and lots of fun. And so much to discuss. Let’s dive in.
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Camp notes (five days)
– Summary of damages. Did not practice today: WR Chase Claypool (shoulder), T Pat Friermuth (hamstring), LB Marcus Allen (hamstring), S Myles Killebrew (peck), RB Jeremy McNichols (shoulder), and I don’t think I saw Levi Wallace. There, at least not today in team exercises. Larry Ogunjobi continues to be inactive during team practice. The good news is that Connor Heyward (right ankle) is back in full practice after rolling up late in Saturday’s practice. Freiremuth also ran to the sidelines, a positive sign for the answer.
One disadvantage of moderate exercise should be noted. RB Najee Harris injured his left leg during the team’s first carry session. He tried to take two more team reps but didn’t make it through the day. He spent half of practice with head coach John Norwig. They seem to be looking at the tablet, maybe watching the game/injury, and they talk for at least six minutes from what I remember. Harris took off his left shoe/sock partway through practice before wearing it to the finals. Mike Tomlin called it petty and that matches what I saw.
– Newly signed WR Javon McKinley will wear #21. Odd numbers for a big receiver like him, but sitting at home wins. He immediately began working with reps in group exercises.
– FS Damontae Kazee on the JUGS machine earlier. He dropped his first pass so he could use his work.
– In fact, Carl Joseph was first on the field at 1:16, more than half an hour before practice.
– Connor Heyward was healthy but played a role as Alfredo Roberts’ assistant, finding the blocker’s slide and shot for tight ends as they ran through position drills.
– While Danny Smith is technically the only special teams coach listed on the Steelers’ staff, he won’t be working alone in camp with the 90-man roster and the team should maximize the few special sessions he gets. Blaine Stewart is one of the assistant coaches and has an active role with special teams during practice and as Frisman Jackson’s assistant WR coach. Stewart wasn’t named full-time WRs coach, so I’m surprised Jackson came in instead. To be honest, I thought Stewart would have a bigger role in the college game, his name was being talked about a few years ago, but maybe COVID has affected things.
– I don’t like to be hypercritical about drops, but WR Steven Sims drops a lot of them. I haven’t seen him in the team, he hasn’t been targeted much, but he’s allowed a lot with his hands in the air, including one today.
– George Pickins Although it is amazing and I don’t want to put cold water on this idea, there is still work to be done. Mostly like a road runner and being more aware and punctual. He broke too early on a ten-yard drill today and Fries Jackson told him “too fast” as he ran through the football and (double-caught). He clears the streets and he becomes a star.
– Heard some coaching points on breaking down the coverage unit during the special teams session.
“On your head, thumbs up!” “Narrow elbows!” “Don’t hang your head [in the block]” – Danny Smith for not getting into the blocking pads to see the ball.
– Okay, let’s talk about group sessions.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Kevin Dotson first team LG. Mitch Trubisky enthusiastically claps hands with QB Zach Gentry as the defense cheers on the crowd. George Pickins, Anthony Miller and Calvin Austin are the three WRs. Devin Bush and Myles Jack are ILBs. Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton CBs with Naje Harris in the backfield. A shot knocked Harris off his feet and down the goal line for a goal.
2. Gentry goes on a motion pre-promotion. Trubisky fades to George Pickens on the left side with Cam Sutton in coverage. Sutton can be a bit of a creep and the pass is incomplete, falling over Pickens’ left shoulder and turning his body as he never gets the ball.
3. Harris carried again. He came close to seeing it go in, but Robert Spillane and Damonta Kazee teamed up to stop it at the one-yard line.
4. Benny Snell at RB. Trubisky looks for Miller slowly, but as Miller dives outside, he can’t clear the underneath defender and the pass clips from his left hand. Incomplete.
5. Kenny Pickett in, 2nd team running back. A fade to Myles Boykin in the back right corner is incomplete. Justin Laine has good coverage but was not in position to catch Boykin.
6. Pickett Connor Heyward is open on a pole route, Heyward breaks inside and outside, but Heyward slips as he breaks, causing Pickett’s pass to fall incomplete.
7. Arrival of Mason Rudolph as sole representative. Anthony McFarland in the backfield with Heyward and tight ends Jase Sternberger. 12 people. Shovel dived to Sternberger to touch the goal line. The defense went 5-2 again with seven hits. You have been controlling these settings.
Second group meeting
1. 12 people. Naje Harris came in carrying. I thought he slipped but it looked like Harris was trying to cut and hit a left when someone stepped on his leg. Miles Jack gets in for free to take him down. No profit.
2. Jack and Bush ILBs. Witherspoon and Sutton are outside CBs. Kendrick Green is now in LG. Snell ran down the left side, hitting Devin Bush behind him for a double.
3. 21 people. Spillane dropped the block of James Daniels and caught Snell after five runs. “Well run, Benny!” Mike Tomlin called. Mike Tomlin loves him some Benny Snell Football™.
4. Chris Wormley and Montravius Adams the DTs. Mitch Trubisky was last in at QB for his four reps. Alex Highsmith comes from behind to chase down Anthony McFarland with three losses. Good team defense here. Highsmith was not alone and they were flocking.
5. Kenny Pickett is now in at QB. McFarland puts his head down and plows forward. Carl Joseph fills the road with healthy friction. A gain of three.
6. Carlos Davis and Henry Mondeaux dts. McFarland’s run of six, good blocking by the o-line. Joseph finishes things off again with a nice big stick. Joseph throwing his weight around on incoming tiles.
7. 21 people. Game Pickett threw a strike to Miles Boykin on a drill up the middle with the LBs drinking. He could have made a profit of 12. But instead of slamming him and Boykin into the ground, the DB took off.
8. Pop in a jet move by Calvin Austin from Pickett. Austin turns to the left corner and has space as two defenders try to stop him. Austin shakes one (who he doesn’t catch) and it almost goes out of the hands of James Pierre, who flips his hip and pulls Austin in this full-tackle drill. Nice quick one from Austin here. Call 13 profits.
9. Mason Rudolph on QB Jaylen Warren with a nice run and foot drive. He scored a well-blocked two and eight.
10. Tyler Vaughn and Calvin Austin are the WRs. 12 men in the game with Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader. Jordan Tucker got off the line with a false start. Joe Hague came in to replace him. At the snap, Matteo Durant runs down the right side. Trey Norwood threw his body into the lane, but Durant was able to keep trucking and stay on his feet for a good nine.
11. Chris Steele and Lyndon Stephenson vs. Carlin’s Plate in the slot. Gunner Olszewski is quoted throughout. Jalen Warren runs on the left side. He saw a crack but Mark Robinson closed it with a hard knock. Tomlin was surprised and the defenseman said loudly as he was getting better.
12. Matteo Durant scored seven points. Khalil Davis was in there and I think Robinson was too. He was very much admired on his way to the side and received many accolades.
Third group session
1. Devin Bush and Miles Jack E.L.B. Chris Wormley and Cam Heyward the DTs. Trubisky at QB with Kazee and Edmunds safeties. Naje Harris on QB Zach Gentry on TA. TJ Watt as LOLB, Alex Highsmith as RDE. Trubisky hit Gentry in the right flat for a gain of three.
2. Bush and Spillane are ILBs. Witherspoon and Sutton the CBs. Watt the LDE and Highsmith the ROLB. Trubisky had a nice zip over center George Pickens and ran left to right. Arthur Maulett is working the ball here as he can’t knock the ball. A gain of six.
3. Benny Snell at RB. Right screen. But Jack sees it completely (there is no full-thud in this drill, more like a thud connection) and gives him a tag without any extras on the line. Nice recognition and completion by Jack.
4. Derrek Tuszka and Genard Avery as EDGE runners with Carlos Davis/Montravious Adams as DTs. Dime staff with Miles Jack on the field. Don’t see Dim in abundance in camp. There were six DBs: Witherspoon, Pierre (RCB), Sutton (slot), Kazee/Edmunds and Tre Norwood. Trubisky grounded out to Jesse Sternberger in right plate, but Kazee was in the stands. A gain of seven. Nice bull rush to get Carlos Davis pressure.
5. Kenny Pickett is coming. Eight yard completion to Connor Heyward on a curve. Carl Joseph threw it down to wrap things up.
6. Cody White and Myles Boykin with Gunner Olzewski in the slot. Pickett, with his hands too long in the pocket, finally scrambles right and makes the catch for a ten-yard gain before hitting Boykin on the side and out of bounds. It was a good ball on the run for Pickett.
7. McFarland at RB. Trent Scott starts a lie and has to do a half-lap, running about 30 yards down the left sideline, going out of bounds and turning back. A Derek Watt screen was left off the picket once the play was restarted and picked up. A twelve yard gain with Henry Mondeaux chasing hard and tackling Watt from behind.
8. OL Dixon-Owens-Gilliam-Green-Tucker. Mason Rudolph’s throw to the left side of the QB to Heyward is incomplete, hitting Heyward’s outstretched hand. Carl Joseph had it covered.
9. Rudolph shoots but is hit at the line by Delonta Scott. Incomplete.
10. Steel / Stephen’s external corners in the plate slot. Norwood and Steiner in security. A screen left from Warren goes for five before Norwood gets there.
11. Doug Costin and Donovan Jeter DTs. Scott and Moultrie are OLBs, Robinson and Gilbert are ILBs. For the second time, in three throws, Rudolph hit the pass. This time Costin did well to raise his hand in throwing this camp.
The fourth group meeting
1. Ball on the offense 38. Run to Snell charging Jack, going nowhere.
2. Trubisky game. Chris Wormley had a “sack” and Trubisky now stuck and ran.
3. Snooze the center for seven. Nice blocks. Kazi with the tact to the ground.
4. One of the best throws of the day. Trubisky really rolls. A low-high reading with Cody White at the #1 reading in the apartment. But it was well covered and taken away. Trubisky makes his next read and hits Anthony Miller with a pass right to the left for 15 yards. Good progress and throw it in motion on the left side.
5. Kenny Pickett was fired six times while looking for a receiver. He finally ran away with the ball. Playing here.
6. Thud tackle. McFarland runs down the right side for five. “Looking for the ball” coaches call it on defense.
7. 21 people. Derrick Watt and Jaylen Warren are there. Isaiah Laudermilk takes Pickett to right. UG3 lands a three count on Warren with a high shoulder to Warren’s body.
8. OL of: Scott-Dotson-Hassenauer-Leglue-Haeg. RPO with Pickett firing to Olszewski with a sprawl in the middle. Like the Kazee/Austin game and hit the other day, Olszewski took a pop from Norwood, but he stayed on here. A gain of seven. Good catch.
9. Durant shows right for six.
10. Rudolph in the game. He fakes the handshake to Warren and then hits Warren with a right flat. A gain of four. Carlin’s plate ran through Warren to touch him.
11. Tuzar skipper blocks Jake Dixon and stops Warren on the line.
12. Rudolph connects with Tyler Vaughns over the middle 15. TD Moultrie goes up the middle and I think makes helmet-to-helmet contact with Rudolph, ends up not being able to pull it off completely. That’s a no-no for QBs and based on his body language and some coaches talking to him, I think he was made aware of that fact.
The fifth group meeting
1. Red zone drill. Ball at the 24. Trubisky at QB, Snell and RB. 3×1 “nub” formation. Trubisky’s layup to Snell for a gain of five. Spillane on the label.
2. Spin and sutton the outer corners. Cody White and Calvin Austin on the field. 21 personnel, Derrick Watt at FB and Connor Heyward as a hands-down, in-line tight end. Montravius Adams sheds the block and makes the stop to get a gain of two to Snell’s right side.
3. Anthony McFarland running back. A good six gain. Cam Sutton threw a great pancake block against LT Dan Moore Jr. that put him flat on his back.
4. Trubisky feeling pressure from Loder’s milk. Washed left, Cody White hit the front left pylon for a TD from ten yards out.
5. Kenny Pickett in the game, ball at 21. Playaction. Pass to Anthony Miller is short-armed and low, jump incomplete.
6. Steven Sims and Cody White with Gunner Olszewski in the slot. Kevin Rader of Y. Inside zone by Anthony McFarland left. Spillane fills in after four overs.
7. 21 people. The Jets ran into Calvin Austin, found the edge and lofted it over his head in celebration with John Leglue as he entered the end zone. 13 yard TD.
8. Pickett gets one more rep to finish the job. This isn’t a two-minute drill, so coaches play fast and slow and ball position to work on different situations. It was initially set empty before Warren stepped inside. The intended end zone throw to Heyward is over his head and incomplete. It may have been a partial throw because Heyward wasn’t really open.
9. Mason Rudolph enters. He beat Olszewski for three on a shallow cross. Buddy Johnson on the stand. Olszewski’s protective cap almost came off and had to be squished back onto his helmet like a bad sweater.
10. Sims and Boykin the WRs in 12 personnel with Sternberger and Gentry the TEs. Warren carries on the left side. A messy body stack on that side and Warren pops up with a Steiner on the other side. A gain of three.
11. Sims and Olszewski out with Miller in the slot. Warren dropped it on the right side. Five say profit. Well blasted to the corner there.
12. Rudolph is literally shaking. He missed an open Sims for too long but eventually found him and hit him for a five-yard TD to end the day.
– Although not listed in chronological order, here’s what each back-to-back rep does to fans, all-time favorites, and what the team does on their first day in the pad.
They will return on the fans
1. Najay Harris anchored and won over Miles Jack, who couldn’t lead the way.
2. Alex Highsmith gets into Zach Gentry’s pads with his long arm but can’t get past him or dunk.
3. Genard Avery with a nice bull rush on Kevin Rader, although Rader saves a little face in the end and lands on Avery.
4. Good anchor by Anthony McFarland to counter Buddy Johnson’s bull rush. Johnson tapped the end of McFarland’s helmet to say, “Good job.”
5. Naje Harris once again wins over Dominion by locking up and dominating Devin Bush.
6. The Tuzar skipper turned the corner late on at Connor Hayward. Not a good rep for Heyward, who is trying to keep his balance.
7. Bull/Swim Skipper to beat Hayward.
8. Jaylen Warren and Mark Robinson collide and both are off balance as Robinson tries to sack Warren as he stumbles slightly to the right (Warren to the left). Good war.
9. The two go at it again, Warren meets his feet and runs to stop Robinson’s bull rush. Naje Harris is jumping up and down as Warren is told.
10. Delontae rips the rim running over Scott Gentry.
11. Scott fakes this time with the outside head and swims in to defeat Gentry cleanly.
12. Matteo Durant mirrors Ulysses Gilbert III’s rotation despite falling late in reps.
13. Kevin Rader anchors TD Moultrie’s bull rush.
14. Devin Bush tries to make Benny Snell in this club. I’m not sure who the winner is.
15. Here, Snell wins, reflecting Bush’s internal rotation experiment.
16. Jace Sternberger blocks the edge on Alex Highsmith’s rush.
17. They pick things up again and Highsmith swims on the beef/Sternburger.
18. A little strange here. Harris and Robert Spillane go head-to-head, but Harris barely gets a hand on Spillane, who wins all around.
19. Go again and Harris wins, again going down on a strong basis. Can’t beat Harris with power.
20. Genard Avery defeated Connor Heyward.
21. Heyward makes a small face save here, packing the edge and then gets square as Avery tries to get back in.
22. Miles Jack, one of the pops of the day, a serious conflict with Derek Watt. Watt’s guardian’s cap was turned from his helmet.
23. This time with Jack finesse, although he came pretty late in the representative, he won with an internal rotation movement.
24. Derek Tuska can’t pass Zach Gentry.
25. Delontae Scott gets under the pads, to knock back Zach Gentry with a nice bull. At one point during practice, Gentry was talking with TEs coach Alfredo Roberts about hand placement and usage.
26. Good rep by Buddy Johnson, using power to run through McFarland.
27. Johnson wins again, this time sliding McFarland’s hands down and passing.
28. Tuzar Skipper loses his punch against Kevin Rader and both fight and Skipper wins late.
29. Skipper hits a rudder around the rim.
30. Jaylen Warren Robert Spillane Seal.
31. Warren again wins over Spillane. Great job Warren here.
32. Connor Heyward drops back to defend TD Moultry’s bull rush and Moultry swims him late.
– And here are the OL/DL reps.
1. Alex Highsmith rips through Dan Moore Jr. around the rim.
2. Cam Heyward pushes Kendrick Green back in a bull rush even though I see Green losing badly against him.
3. A good push/pull by Montravious Adams causes Mason Cole to double back and take him down.
4. James Daniels goes backwards on a Chris Wormley bull rush before gaining some control and throwing Wormley down.
5. Chukwuma Okorafor gets a lot of depth and allows TJ Watt to get in easily.
6. Dan Moore jumps early and resets, a running theme of the season with plenty of early activity on both sides of the ball. Highsmith rips off the top again.
7. Bull missed a layup from Cam Heyward but couldn’t drain the green.
8. Mason Cole sticks and mirrors on Montravius Adams.
9. Wormley outruns Bull Daniel and swims him late.
10. Okorafor Watt Rides Up.
11. Genard Avery loses his footing with an effective long arm against Trent Scott, slips and lands on his stomach.
12. Scott got some revenge and mirrors Avery here.
13. Kevin Dotson anchors Isaiah Laudermick.
14. Loudermilk’s teardown motion fails against Dotson.
15. Good power by Henry Mondeaux to defeat JC Hassenauer.
16. Quick burst and Carlos Davis swipe to beat John Leglu.
17. They go at it again and Davis uses a bull rush to get the leg back.
18. Joe Hague, Derek Tuska, joins the upfield.
19. Tuska tries a quick spin but runs into Hague’s fist and knocks himself to the ground in a tycoon.
20. Trent Scott tried but couldn’t crack it.
21. Scott hits Scott with a good punch and inside, slow footed and unable to spin.
22. Excellent push/pull by Loudermilk on Dotson. Strong rep and I’d like to see him use it more often.
23. Mondeaux won over Hassenauer.
24. Good bull run by DeMarvin Leal at running back John Leglue, though he can’t shed it.
25. Leal moves early and they have to reset. But in the blink of an eye, with a big bang to go up and tear through the field for one of the fastest wins of the day. Leal blinks when he can fly to the field.
26. Haeg steers Avery upfield, he needs to get a real sit-to-corner and win very late in the rep.
Summary of camp
– Anyone who says Kenny Pickett has had a good day is overstating things, but his last two experiences have been a bit better. Second team doesn’t mean getting more reps, it doesn’t mean playing with more talented players (though of course facing a 2nd team defense). He still needs to get the ball out quickly.
– RB Jaylen Warren could be a name to watch. A squat body with good footwork and I loved his output and competitive nature, his fearlessness, against the ‘fans. Dude puts his face in the fan with a nice turn and legs. Acting as a cheerleader and participating on special teams… I’m keeping an eye on it.
– dinged by McNichols and Harris, we may be seeing another breeder arrive tomorrow. Lines will be shorter in the backfield as the pads arrive.
– As I mentioned above, George Pickins has all the talent in the world. The coach’s job is to make him a more refined and technical player, especially with his routes. It’s the #1 thing to work on. I’ll say without looking at WRs/DBs, Pickins took a nice deep dive on the left side early rep.
– You don’t need to jam more than one day and it’s not like we have an all-22 to combine every rep, but from what I’ve seen, James Daniels hasn’t had the best days. Looking for a better tomorrow.
– They praised the offensive line that was error-free last week. Two false starts today by Tucker and Scott and the entire OL/DL team was jumping like crazy in the 1v1. On the plus side, their overall run blocking looks pretty solid.
– Isaiah Loudermilk is quick to exercise authority. Push/pull and bull should be his top moves. Finesse is not his game and he needs to realize that.
– Carlos Davis’ cheap shot on Jack Dixon the other day, he looked like a pass rusher in practice and as a team. Don’t forget about it in the DL section. Doug Costin also looks like a volleyball player with his shots.
– Delonta Scott One of the big winners of the day. He’s good at dominating the ‘fans and that gentry. The batting and run defense was strong as a team. He is fighting hard for a roster spot.
– Miles Jack was a steady Eddie. Run protection, cover, general availability. At ILB, we hope the answer is him. So far so good.
– Carl Joseph in a physical running session. Throwing his weight around. Miles Killebrew’s lost time is Joseph’s gain.
A snapshot of St. Vincent
Blocking George Pickins. New WRs coach Frisman Jackson is serious about improving the WR run blocking. I’m all for that.
Twitter Camp Twitter question
How does Daniel look?
— Golo (@GoloFromKyotoo) August 1, 2022
Good so far. There weren’t many notes on it. But in good shape, a good athlete, the block on Sutton was something else, and he’s a hard worker. But a long ways to go for Moore in a big sophomore year.
The fact of arbitrary steels
Jerome Bettis tied the NFL record for yards in a single game when he rushed for three touchdowns. Bettis carried the ball five times for one yard and three touchdowns in a 2004 win over the Raiders. He tied Hank Bauer’s 1979 mark.
George Carlin’s quote of the day
“Some people see the glass as half full. Others see it as half empty. I saw a glass that was twice as big as it should be.”